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How the system works -- and what your obligations will be

Q: Why are the rules being introduced?

A: The European Court of Justice ruled in October 2009 that Ireland had failed to ensure that wastewater was properly treated.

Q: What happens now?

A: Households with septic tanks and other on-site wastewater treatment systems will have to register their property by February 1. It costs €5 to register before September 28, after which the fee rises to €50.

Q: What are my obligations?

A: You must guarantee your tank is not causing pollution. You must pump your tank out at least every three years, or as per manufacturers' instr-uctions for newer models.

Q: Who has to register?

A: The owner of any domestic property with a septic tank, including mobile homes and unoccupied buildings. There are no exemptions or waivers.

Q: How do I register?

A: Online at www.protectour-water.ie by credit card or debit card; in local authority offices; and by post, with forms available from libraries, local authorities, citizen information centres; or by phoning 1890 800 800.

Q: Will I have to re-register?

A: Yes. The certificate of registration is valid for five years. There will be no fee for subsequent registrations.

Q: What happens if I don't pay?

A: Fines of up to €5,000 can be imposed. The Department of the Environment says it has some data on the location of tanks, and will instruct local authorities to pursue offenders.

Q: How does it work?

A: Officials will inspect tanks in at-risk areas -- where water sources are polluted -- from next year. There will be no charge for the inspections. If there's a problem, the prope-rty owner will have to fix or replace the tank. The cost of repairs depends on the work needed. A new system can cost €6,000, but some financial assistance will be provided.

Q: Can I refuse to allow inspectors on to my land?

A: No. It is an offence to refuse entry or obstruct an inspector.

Irish Independent